What started as one small ‘community shop’ in Putaruru has morphed into four shops in three towns and all money raised in these shops goes to help animal welfare.
Pet Animal Welfare Shops, known as PAWS, provides funds to assist in the de-sexing of cats and dogs. Since the first shop was started in October 2009 they have raised $600,000, most of which has been used for de-sexing but also encompasses other short term veterinary needs.
Putaruru woman Meg Wilson is the founder and driver behind PAWS and has extensive experience in animal welfare. She was initially chair of the Putaruru SPCA and then the South Waikato SPCA for several years and when she left in October 2008, she saw there was a real problem with the ‘animal explosion’.
“Cats, kittens and puppies were being dumped, drowned, and discarded in cardboard boxes. These were unwanted litters of both cats and dogs considered superfluous to requirements.
“I wanted to be the taxi at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom.”
Meg had a surplus of goods. She contacted her friends with the idea of starting a shop to raise funds to help pay for de-sexing these unwanted animals.
“Six friends and I put in $120. We found an empty shop in Putaruru and the landlord gave us a month’s free rent. We begged and borrowed racks and equipment and opened the shop within a couple of days.
“It was a crazy time and within six months we had absolutely no room in the shop. We were overwhelmed with donations, people had been so generous giving us their unwanted goods and we were selling plenty out of our little shop.”
When the group accumulated $8000 in the bank Meg approached the local vet about setting up a de-sexing campaign for $5000. After placing an article in the local paper all the appointments for the first campaign had been allocated – and the $5000 was gone.
“This showed us quite quickly that there was a massive need for this type of help and PAWS grew. We became a charitable trust. No one was paid, all the work was done by volunteers.
“We opened a second shop, this time in Tokoroa and a third shop in Thames – there was a huge need to address the animal explosion in that town. Later we opened a second shop in Putaruru to help cope with the amount of donated goods.”
All items – clothing, furniture, linen, and books – in the shops are donated. They are sorted, priced and allocated to a particular shop. The shops are all run by volunteers.
“We now get a number of bequests and requests from the family of deceased estates. Often the family are more than happy for PAWS to help clear out the family home,” says Meg.
“We often get asked to ‘take everything’ and we are more than happy to do that. We offer to take the goods ‘out of town’ if that suits the family.”
The PAWS trust members are a small but efficient group who all have animal welfare at heart. The four shops serve their communities in two ways – by providing low-priced goods to the public and the de-sexing of animals.
Arrangements with vets
Meg says the need for de-sexing the animals has not diminished and PAWS now has arrangements with vets in Te Kuiti, Taumaranui and Hamilton and they work with New Lives Rescue in Cambridge and Kitty Korner in Te Kuiti, along with other animal rescue organisations.
After eight years the money raised in the PAWS community shops has paid for hundreds of cats and dogs, kittens and pups to be de-sexed. PAWS does not pay for all de-sexing costs. Owners must have a Community Services Card and pay $30 for a cat and $80 for a dog; PAWS pays the remainder. Pet owners apply at their local vets to see if there is money available or through the PAWS Pet Animal Welfare Shops Facebook page.
Statistics on cat breeding
One female cat can be responsible for 280,000 kittens. A kitten can start to breed by the time the mother is having her third litter.
“If we can break the cycle the unwanted kittens will be kept under control and the life of those animals will be much better,” says Meg.
“The vets we deal with have noticed they are not getting the number of dumped kittens now so that means the PAWS philosophy to de-sex works.”
Meg’s vision to help the welfare of animals, which began with one small shop eight years ago, has turned into a full-time role managing the four shops plus the work on the animal welfare side.
“Our vets have been amazing, helping with the de-sexing campaigns and they also sponsor our Eftpos machines.
“The public help has been overwhelming. We get donations every single day – every little bit helps,” says Meg who was awarded a QSM for services to animal welfare in 2011.
If you would like to donate to PAWS call in to any of the PAWS shops for more information.
The PAWS Facebook page includes the group’s bank account number. Just a donation of $5 a month would be very much appreciated.